Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Santa Fe film center example of ‘demolition by neglect’

One of the values ​​Santa Feans hold dear is the preservation of our history through the preservation of our historic buildings. One such building, long deemed “historic” by the city of Santa Fe, is the site of the former Anthropology Film Center, founded in 1966 at 1626 Upper Canyon Road. The center, which trained the likes of director George Burdeau, producer Gigi Pritzger, artist Marcus Amerman and poet Joy Harjo, later fell into disuse. A new owner purchased the property and requested permission to demolish the historic structure, but that permission was denied due to its historical significance. Following that denial some neighbors have suspected the owner was engaging in a practice called “demolition by neglect,” wherein no repairs are made, roof leaks are encouraged, and eventually the owner claims the property is so damaged it must be demolished instead of preserved.

Demolition by neglect is illegal. The Canyon Neighborhood Association filed a complaint with the city, which responded with an investigation and concluded that indeed the property was being neglected. We were told the city was in the process of contacting the owner to serve legal papers demanding the property be properly cared for.

I recently contacted the city to get an update on the situation, filled out the appropriate inquiry form and received an automated reply to file on the property. This is not a plausible response, as a complaint had been filed, the Neighborhood Association had followed up with the investigator, and court papers had been prepared. Subsequent e-mails to Land Use Director Jason Kluck, other land use officials and the city manager to revive the investigation and determine what happened to the records of the investigation have been ignored.

I then called the person who had done the inspections in response to the missing complaint, Gary Moquino. He remembered the case and expressed no idea on what happened to the file. He said he would revisit the property and prepare a new inspection report and citation, and to call him back in three weeks for the status. Three weeks later I made several calls to him that were ignored. I did a records request and found out nothing had happened, no inspection, no citation.

The Land Use Department is silent and indifferent to the fate of the structure and the cause of the missing file and inaction. The department is abetting the demolition by neglecting it is charged with preventing. The reader can speculate as to why.

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